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San Diego County has paid more than $900,000 to settle suits accusing deputy of sexual misconduct

San Diego County has paid more than $900,000 to settle suits accusing deputy of sexual misconduct
Former Deputy Richard Fischer, left, is accused of groping and other sexual misconduct. (Hayne Palmour IV / San Diego Union-Tribune)

A fourth person has agreed to settle a lawsuit against San Diego County, accepting $240,000 in damages for a sexual-misconduct claim lodged against sheriff's Deputy Richard Fischer.

The settlement pushed the total amount paid by the county so far to more than $900,000, and 11 other cases remain to be resolved. Fischer pleaded not guilty to 14 criminal counts filed earlier this year and faces trial later this year.

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County officials declined to comment on the latest settlement.

Attorney Dan Gilleon represents 15 plaintiffs in separate cases against the Sheriff's Department. He said the latest plaintiff to settle, identified in court papers by her initials T.S., was the second of more than a dozen victims to come forward.

He said her testimony to Sheriff's Department investigators was extremely credible.

"She was traumatized by what happened, and I know her very favorable impression and credibility had an enormous impact on the investigators," Gilleon wrote in an email. "After speaking with her, the sheriff's IA [internal affairs] knew they had a major problem on their hands and began scrambling."

According to the lawsuit T.S. filed in December, Fischer and another officer responded to the woman's San Marcos home after she reported a burglary in August 2016. The woman's husband was out of the country at the time.

Fischer and the other deputy took the woman's report and completed their investigation before leaving the residence about an hour later, the lawsuit stated. About 11 p.m., Fischer returned to the home alone.

"Still shaken up and very scared as a result of the burglary, T.S. looked through the peephole to see who was knocking and discovered it was one of the deputies who had been in her home earlier that evening," the lawsuit said.

The woman let Fischer into her home and he immediately pulled her into his chest and held her very tightly, the complaint added.

"T.S. was shocked and taken aback by the way Fischer hugged her, because it did not feel as if Fischer was trying to convey that he was sorry for what had happened to her," the lawsuit said. "T.S. felt it was 'a different kind of hug.' "

Before leaving, Fischer told T.S. that he would be patrolling the area all night, the lawsuit said.

In total, the four settlements cost the county $906,000, funded from county general purpose revenues. Fischer, who is facing years in prison if convicted of all charges, has a court hearing scheduled next week.

McDonald writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune

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